About Mamoru Oshii

Mamoru Oshii

Born August 8, 1951

Mamoru is a critically acclaimed Japanese filmmaker, director, screenwriter and storyteller. His unique ability to intertwine philosophy into storytelling has earned him international praise.
Although Mamoru is most well known for his work in directing Ghost In The Shell, he's also credited with creating the first ever OVA (Original Video Animation).

Style
Mamoru Oshii has labelled his own style as 'directly contrasting the Hollywood formula' - He believes that visuals are the most important aspect, followed by story and finally characters. His work varies from the manga it is often adapted from as he opts to remove the comedic aspects of the original work to make way for a darker undertone to the story. Oshii is also known to push the boundaries of the medium's he is working with - in order to create immersive and visually stunning films.

The Journey

The Early Years
Mamoru began his career as a storyboard artist for Tatsunoko Productions, working on Ippatsu Kanta-Kun (Homerun Kanta). However in 1980 he moved to Studio Pierrot where he would make his directorial debut with Urusei Yatsura. Following the success of the series, Mamoru directed two films Urusei Yatsura: Only You and Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer. Beautiful Dreamer is now widely popularised as the birth of his style of storytelling.

Independent Work
After the success of Urusei Yatsura, and while still working at Studio Pierrot, Oshii began working independently on Dallos. Dallos would become known as the first ever OVA, a Japanese film made for home-video release without prior showing in theatres or on television.

Headgear & Live Action
Oshii joined studio Headgear as a director where he went on to produce the Patlabor TV series, OVA and several feature films. During breaks in production for Patlabor Oshii focused his attention on live action work, creating The Red Spectacles & Stray Dog - the beginning of the Kerberos Saga.

Ghost In The Shell
In 1995 he would go on to create his most well-known work, later labelled as a 'masterpiece'. Ghost In The Shell became the first ever anime to reach the top of the US billboard video charts, it also achieved mainstream success across Europe.

Hiatus & Present Works
After the successful release of Ghost In The Shell Oshii would take a 5 year Hiatus from directing so that he could focus his attention on other projects. After this Hiatus he completed a sequel to Ghost In The Shell (Innocence) and continued work on both animation and live-action films.

Key Works

1976
1978

Ippatsu Kanta-kun

Storyboard Artist | Director

Employed as a storyboard artist and later becoming a director, Mamoru begain his career by working on this series. The series ran for 53 episodes, in which Mamoru made his directorial debut.


1981
1986

Urusei Yatsura

Director | Chief Director | Storyboard Artist
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Following up earlier works Mamoru served as chief director and storyboard artist. Urusei Yatsura can be seen as the beginning of widespread success for Mamoru. Mamoru is credited as chief director for 106 episodes and two movies. The second movie, 'Beutiful Dreamer' is seen as the birth of what would later be known as Mamoru's signature style.

1983
1984

Dallos

Director | Writer | Creator
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Producing 5 episodes between 1983 and 1984 this Sci-Fi animation begun the trend of OVA (direct-to-dvd) in Japan. Working alongside Studio Pierrot and Hisayuki Toriumi this series achieved success in Japan before later being released to the USA.

1988
1994

Patlabor

Director | Writer

Released during Japanese economic downturn this was released on several mediums including Manga, OVA, Light novel and feature-length film. Mamoru served as director and writer of the OVA episodes as well as director of the first two feature-films.

1987
1987

The Red Spectacles

Director | Writer
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This is the first live-action feature film production by Mamoru as well as the first of his Kerberos Saga. This Military sci-fi saga drew influence from Oshii's love for European cinema. It was released to cinema and later DVD in Japan, and released as a triology box set in the USA.

1995
1995

Ghost In The Shell

Director
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The most well-known of works produced by Oshii, Ghost In The Shell was an animated feature-film that achieved international success and critical acclaim. It is widely considered one of the greatest animated films ever made and is Oshii's most highly regarded film. It's cult following has lead to a sequel, re-release and the production of a live-action movie.

Full List Of Works

A detailed overview of the works produced throughout Oshii's career.

click here to see the full list

Mamoru Oshii: Signature Storytelling


Mamoru prides himself on differing from the norm, employing a range of filmmaking and storytelling elements that are different from the standard Hollywood blockbuster. In particular Mamoru believes that the visual and graphical elements of the film are more important than storyline, or characters. Mamoru aims to create an immersive and detailed world that catches the viewers attention and causes them to be even more invested in the storyline. Mamoru has said previously that the films he makes are to create a 'feeling' rather than a story. In essence Mamoru aims to carry similar themes throughout all of his films, almost as though he has a signature brand of animation. This can be seen in every element of his works.



The Use Of Contrast: Cover Art

Dallos' cover is a tell-all, without watching the film viewers can get an instant overview of the themes and storylines. The contrast of distance between the main character and the moon illustrates the relationship between the main character and the moon-colony. The comparative size of the two can show the power struggle that the main character has, between going his own path and sticking to tradition. This contrast imparts a feeling on the viewer that carries throughout the film. The theme of power, isolation and deviation from the norm are featured heavily in Mamoru's works. Growing up in Japan and regularly engaging in anti-government protests (to the disapproval of his parents) has no doubt influenced his choice to include these themes in his work. Many have noted that the anti-infrastructure mentality is one part of the 'brand' of animation that Mamoru makes, and it serves as the base for most of his' storywriting.


Symbolism: Creating A Dreamworld


The most common element among Mamoru films is a 'dreamlike' feeling that viewers get while watching. This is influenced by a range of factors, but it's no secret that this dream-state is there on purpose; It's immersive, it draws viewers in and makes them engage with the film on a deeper level, and it leaves a lasting impression. In order to create this dreamworld Mamoru uses symbolism in an intricate way. Instead of using traditional Japanese characters in backgrounds, he blends Japanese and Chinese writing so that viewers can almost understand the writing, but there's still something foreign and unknown about each scene.
This distant, dream-like feeling is a signature for Mamoru. If you were to watch each film without dialogue, it's no doubt that this theme would still be noticeable, as it isn't based in story or characters, but something deeper. It's constructed from the very way that Mamoru designs scenes, transitions and films. Every detail from the opening scene to the final credits is meant to carry this feeling.

Carrying a brand: An Expert's Perspective

To further explore how Mamoru manages to maintain his signature theme through all of his' works we sat down with Juliet, Creative Director of Perth-based branding agency Luminosity. Juliet is as an expert in brand strategy, and we discussed everything from logo and graphic design to branding. Juliet shared her love of film with us and explained how Mamoru's choice to carry a familiar theme through all of his works is common among designers. 'Although the works are different, there's common elements to each, and you use these common elements as your signature as both a storyteller and designer'. What's more the choice to create similar feel in each film means that Mamoru's fanbase will only grow with time. Even though the story of each film may change, Mamoru carries something deeper throughout which means that viewers get a sense of familiarity with each one of his' works. Juliet mentioned 'All brands aim to do this, even though you may have child-companies or seperate products, you carry similar visual elements that the viewer can familiarise themselves with. These elements give your customer a sense of comfort.' Apple, Google & Virgin are all real-world examples of this. A plethora of sub-companies, and sub-products yet there's similar elements to each. This often-overlooked idea 'familiarity' is something noticeable on Mamoru's works, and it's not unrealistic to say it's why he has a cult-like following.

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